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Leading Edge is thinking differently about Legal Education, and putting those thoughts into actionable strategies.

Wolters Kluwer’s Annual Leading Edge Conference is an invitation-only gathering of the country’s top legal education thought leaders to discuss key issues facing legal education and to brainstorm actionable strategies. Launched in 2014 as an experiment in attendee-driven “unconferences,” Leading Edge has become a highly regarded gathering for the legal education community, with more than half of all law schools in the United States having participated. 

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Leading Edge Prize for Educational Innovation

At the 5th Annual Leading Edge Conference in July 2018, Wolters Kluwer announced the first Leading Edge Prize for Educational Innovation. Wolters Kluwer launched the prize with the purpose of awarding teams that demonstrated a vision for improving outcomes and educational opportunities for law school students and new associates. In the first year of the prize, the following two winning teams were awarded $10,000 each.

The Pathways Project: Connecting Ambition with Opportunity for Underrepresented Law Students

Team Members:
Hosea H. Harvey, Professor of Law at Temple University’s Beasley School of Law
Gregory Parks, Associate Dean of Research and Professor of Law at Wake Forest University School of Law

The Pathways Project seeks to use data from a selection of national law schools to identify independent factors that contribute to under-performance in law school and on the bar exam, and to implement interventions to address those factors. The project seeks to serve law students from groups that are underrepresented in the legal profession. The prize will support the research and analysis costs associated with this data-heavy inquiry.

Expanding Access to Justice and Practical Legal Training

Team Members:
Scott Barnes, Co-founder and COO of Proboknow and Lowboknow
Chad Trainer, Co-founder and COO of Proboknow and Lowboknow
Martin Pritikin, Dean of Concord Law School at Purdue University Global
Gabriel Teninbaum, Professor and Director of the Institute on Legal Innovation and Technology at Suffolk University Law School
William Tanner, Director of Clinic and Pro Bono Programs at the Veterans Legal Institute and the Executive Director of the Consortium on Access to Justice.

This team focused on two related start-ups—Proboknow and Lowboknow—that are geared toward bridging the access to justice gap. Proboknow is a not-for-profit online platform that connects newer attorneys with low-income clients in need of pro bono help, as well as experienced attorneys to serve as mentors—making it easier and more convenient to connect with pro bono cases and helpful resources. Proboknow is supported by Lowboknow, a for-profit start-up that connects those who earn too much to qualify for free legal help, and yet not enough to afford market rates, with solo practitioners and small law firms who are willing to either reduce their standard rates or make their services more affordable through limited scope representation. The prize will help to fund the companies’ expansion into Boston to network for lawyers on the East Coast.

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Leading Edge Report

In 2015, the Leading Edge program expanded to include the Legal Education Leading Edge Report. Based on extensive interviews and surveys with deans, professors, and other stakeholders in the community, the Leading Edge Report is intended to succinctly summarize many of the key areas of focus for law schools seeking to evolve their teaching model to meet the challenges and opportunities in legal education today. The report is available for free download, or for purchase in a print edition.

Download Report

  • Fifth Annual Faculty Leading Edge Conference

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    Leading Edge 2018

    The 5th Annual Leading Edge Conference once again brought together legal education thought leaders from across the country to participate in another tremendously successful “unconference” where the agenda was entirely created by the attendees upon their arrival. From July 9–11, 2018, in Riverwoods, Illinois, the attendees engaged in collective idea-sharing, informal networking, and high-energy brainstorming surrounding core questions about the present and future of legal education.

    Sessions

    • Reducing Cost and Increasing ROEI (Return on Educational Investment)
    • How to Organize a Law School Curriculum around the Delta Competency Model
    • Good Bye (Christopher) Columbus (Langdell): Building Better Systems and Processes for Making Lawyers
    • Are We Sustainable (Or is Vikram Too Optimistic)?
    • The Critical First Year: How Can We Effectively Educate Today’s Students About All the Things We Want Them to Take Away from Their First Year?
    • Re-Examining Bar Review
    • Competitive Coping Strategies in the American Legal Academy
    • How Do We Design Transformational Experiences?
    • Younger, Older, and In-Between: Undergraduate Legal Education and Beyond in the Era of AI and High Cost Education
    • Experiential Methods and Intellectual Versatility
    • Roundtable: Less Resources and More Unprepared Students—What to Do?
    • Joint Session:
      • The Inclusive Classroom: Religion + Race + Gender + Academic Freedom
      • Professional Identity Formation
    • The Science of Learning as Applied to Law School
    • Incubators and Not-for-Profit Firms: Promoting Access to Justice and Facilitating Graduate Training
    • Joint Session:
      • Practical Strategies for Digital Entrepreneurs (or Entrepreneurial Thinkers/Doers)
      • Best Practices in Distance Learning
      • Developing Law School Distance Education—The Next Five Years
    • A Discussion about Motivating Change
    • New Algorithms in Legal Practice Tech (AI, Blockchain Tech, etc.)
    • Over/Under: How Many Law Schools Will There Be by 2030?
    • Legal Analysis—The Fundamental Skill: What Is It? How Can We Better Teach It?
    • Using Data Analysis to Customize Legal Education to Make It More Accessible and Increase Return on Investment
    • Lawyers and Clients Dealing with Identity Threat (Microaggression, Stereotype Threat)
    • Using and Improving Digital Textbooks
    • Design-Thinking for Legal Problem Solving
    • What Are Transactional Practice Core Competencies and How Should We Teach Them?
    • Teaching and Developing Leadership in the Law School
    • A Dialogue about the Changing Demographics in Law School—Implications for Leadership Development
  • Fourth Annual Faculty Leading Edge Conference

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    Leading Edge 2017

    Building on the prior success of the first three Leading Edge Conferences, the 4th Annual Leading Edge Conference brought together legal education thought leaders from across the country to discuss challenges and opportunities for law schools, faculty, and students. Held on July 10-12, 2017 in our Riverwoods, Illinois, complex, this “unconference” where the agenda is entirely driven by the attendees, covered these topics:

    Sessions

    • Law Faculty Professional Development in the Age of Assessment Creativity and other Higher Order Skills
    • The Role of Online and Hybrid Learning Environments on the Future of Legal Education in the Near and Long Term
    • What Do 1Ls Need to Know and How Do We Teach Them?
    • Are We Talking Past Our Students; Are We Not on the Same Page?
    • Lawyers as Leaders
    • Law Faculty Professional Development in the Age of Assessment
    • Changing the Culture
    • Cyber, Privacy, Internet ... Call It What You Will... Students Need to Know It
    • 10 Ways to Assure that Law School Remains/Becomes Relevant
    • The Ethics of Poaching
    • Diversity and the First Year Curriculum
    • Women Leaving the Law – Not Our Problem?
    • Law Professor as Story Teller
    • Google is Not the Answer
    • Data, Management, Marketing, and Outcomes – Science or Religion?
    • Disrupting Law School: Let’s Consider Non-Consumption in Legal Ed and Legal Services
    • Diversity in a Shifting Legal Landscape
    • Do Law Schools Have a Responsibility to Teach Social Justice?
    • Do We Want to Break Free of the ABA and/or US News?
    • Expanding the Geographic and Substantive Reach of the Law School
    • Experiential Learning 2.0: Cross-Disciplinary Problem-Solving
    • Setting into the New Normal: The Job Market for New Law Graduates Today and What that Means for the Legal Academy Tomorrow
    • Should Student Tuition $$ Subsidize Faculty Scholarship?
  • Third Annual Faculty Leading Edge Conference

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    Third Annual Faculty Leading Edge Conference

    Building on the prior success of the first two Leading Edge Conferences, the 3rd Annual Leading Edge Conference brought together 32 legal education thought leaders nationwide to discuss challenging issues facing legal education today and to brainstorm ways to address and overcome these challenges. Held on July 11-13, 2016 in our Riverwoods, Illinois, complex, this “unconference” where the agenda is entirely driven by the attendees, addressed these challenges:

    Sessions

    • Structuring Bloom’s Taxonomy for legal education
    • Ultimate death match: Boomers vs. Millennials in a law school environment
    • What 1 or 2 skills, activities, experiences, or courses, would you like to see made more available (or perhaps even required) and when?
    • Law students as future entrepreneurs
    • The $10K JD
    • Brainstorm! On improving entry-level employment outcomes (Or, Adventures in Alliteration)
    • Assumptions/pre-conceived notions that faculty and students bring to legal education
    • The future of the law school within the university
    • How do we prepare future lawmakers and policy makers through legal education
    • Keeping legal education valuable: how to get here from there
    • What role does the bar exam play?
    • Continued—defense of scholarship BUT focus on what it is and how to measure
    • Personal autonomy and professionalism (law school as profession or liberal art education)
    • Meaning of practical legal education
    • Developing professional judgment and forming professional identity
    • Changes in the legal profession—looking back, looking forward 25 years
    • I’m 55 and tenured. What now? 
    • Are we yeaching students to play hockey when we should be preparing them for Disney on Ice?
    • Pointing the finger: Unprepared Students vs. Unprepared Law Schools
    • The future of law meets
    • Learning outcomes and assessments measures
    • Entrepreneurship across the arc of lawyering: professoring, learning, lawyering, and lawyering for entrepreneurs
    • How do we attract the best and brightest to go to law school (as well as diverse candidates)? 
  • Second Annual Faculty Leading Edge Conference

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    Second Annual Faculty Leading Edge Conference

    Twenty-five leading innovators in legal education came together at the cabin in our Riverwoods complex to discuss challenges in legal education and collaborate to develop solutions. Building on the success of the first annual Leading Edge conference (see below), this second edition added innovators and entrepreneurs from the business side of legal education to the law school professors and deans that constitute the conference’s core attendees.

    Sessions

    • Changing demographics and bar passage realities
    • What should the 2nd and 3rd year of law school look like?
    • A modest proposal for the decriminalization of the part-time practice of law by tenure track faculty
    • What might law schools learn from design thinking and the Stanford Design School
    • Assumptions made by students and faculty in law school
    • Designing post-law school “incubator” programs to bridge graduates to low-bono small/solo practice
    • Kickstarts, Bootcamps, and other bridge programs: Preparing underprepared students for law school
    • Carnegie-integrated courses
    • What do we know about undergraduate teaching and learning? Do we care? Should we care?
    • Why experiential education? Exploring the conventional justifications and what they imply for all concerned
    • Globalization and legal education overhyped? How impactful? Underappreciated?
    • Demonstrating behavioral economics in reading and comprehension
    • Can a law school be a graduate school—revenue degrees and mission
    • Better student/faculty meeting: Promoting autonomy, mastery and purpose in law students
    • Online education
    • How to deal with difficult students?
    • Should law schools be teaching for mastery?
    • Law student survey: Mental health issues and the culture in law school.
    • Managing change in the law school landscape
  • First Annual Student Leading Edge Conference

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    First Student Leading Edge Conference

    The first Leading Edge Student Conference brought together 20 remarkable law students for two and a half days of idea-sharing, informal networking, and high-energy brainstorming surrounding the core question of what legal education should look like in the 21st century. Topics ranged from legal education reform, to workplace preparation, to coping with the stresses of being a law student. Each attendee was able to share his or her own experiences and collaborate with students from other law schools on ideas to take back to their own context​.

    Sessions

    • Legal education reform: The role and function of law schools in the twenty-first century
    • Technology tools in law schools
    • The nontraditional route through law school
    • Practical skills in law schools vs. theories
    • Choosing to take bar classes in lieu of electives: Good strategy or pitfall?
    • Re-evaluating law school evaluation
    • Exams and software in the classroom
    • The cost of legal education
    • Socratic method: yay or nay?
    • The non-traditional law student
    • Extracurricular activities: Waste of time or useful asset?
    • Law school grades and their role in the hiring process
    • Are summers enough? Evolving legal education for the current legal market
    • Grading
    • Value in law school
    • Education programs that complement a JD
    • Dealing with stress in law school
    • The evolving law school: Training ground vs. academic center
    • Reconstructing the current law school model
    • Selecting law school classes
    • Diversity in law school and the future of legal education
    • What are law schools doing to ensure practical experiential learning?
    • Self help to stay sane
    • Honor codes and honor councils
    • The law school bait and switch
    • 1L: What would you do differently
  • First Annual Faculty Leading Edge Conference

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    First Annual Faculty Leading Edge Conference

    Wolters Kluwer Legal Education invited 25 of the most well respected thought-leaders and innovators in legal education to attend the first annual WK Leading Edge conference and participate in three days of collaborative discussion and debate around the state of legal education.

    As an “unconference,” the event did not have an agenda until participants collaboratively designed one the first evening. This format was intended to facilitate open conversation and ensure that session time was focused around issues of genuine import for attendees. Attendees created 21 high-impact sessions all revolving around how law schools should turn today’s students into successful legal thinkers and practitioners.

    Sessions

    • MOOC-Mania: How technology enhanced education is changing the face of higher education
    • Dealing with faculty status issues during times of economic crisis
    • Changing how we assess students
    • What is legal ed for? What is its purpose? Who should be given it? Is it all about lawyering?
    • What law schools can learn from architecture schools (the studio, the "crit," and more)
    • The changing market for entry level employment for law graduates and its implications for the academy
    • Gender in the Legal Academy
    • The (somewhat dismal but not necessarily as bad as some say) state of legal education
    • What makes a good casebook/coursebook (or do we need them at all?)
    • Teaching millennials from the 19-century law curriculum and assessing them, OR NOT
    • Unbundling legal education: Should we open our doors to non-JD seekers? Should we increase advocacy to end monopoly on practice and allow non-lawyer assistance? What are the essential elements for a JD?
    • How will changing demographics of law students impact law schools and the legal profession?
    • Teaching "soft" skills in "hard" classes
    • What the rest of the university can learn from the law school experience
    • The big picture—7 observations about legal education
    • How mindset can promote change in legal education
    • Solving the access to justice problem by reforming legal education
    • The changing legal academy: Does one size fit all?
    • Regulation with or without the ABA: Knowing your enemy
    • Any impact of internationalization/globalization? Are we missing the boat? Or does it not matter?
    • Law school degrees: NOT a JD or even a LL.M.
    • 21st century classrooms—Designing spaces for active learning/flipped teaching
    • Students as reluctant to see change: How to deal with this reluctance? Why is it happening?
    • How should law schools be "forming" professional identity in a changing market

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